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Meeting the Minister

Members of Scotland’s International Development Alliance were given the opportunity to meet Minister McKelvie, appointed as International Development Minister in March. The Minister was keen to hear from members that she hadn’t yet met and the conversation was wide ranging – from food security to communicating with the public.  

The Minister opened the meeting by referencing the upcoming midway point to the SDG agenda of 2030. She explained that this was an ongoing focus of the team’s work, and the SDGs are embedded in everything they do. She spoke about Scotland’s role as a good global citizen – that whilst we all cherish this it is something that needs work. The Minister outlined three current priorities: creating new principles that ensure a partner led approach, taking a feminist approach, and pursuing equalising power. 

Equalising power in action

Equalising power was a topic of concern for members too. Joanna from Zambia Therapeutic Art spoke about how they are developing training for medical practitioners in Zambia, and that their aim is to make themselves (in Scotland) redundant. They are developing specialist approaches and strengthening the organisation in Zambia in the hope that they can take over the reins.  

Jo Vallis from Friends of Chitambo spoke about her grassroots NGO which helps health projects in Zambia. Their top priority is to transfer the balance of power to their Zambian board, and they are planning to appoint a coordinator who can help increase capacity amongst board members. 

The benefits of being small

Geoffrey from Bressay Care talked about the benefits of small charities in being able to be nimble to respond to needs, and how funding small charities can be very effective. 

John Norgrove talked about the work of the Linda Norgrove foundation in funding education, health and childcare for women and children in Afghanistan. They are currently trying to  bring 20 female Afghan medical students to Scotland to complete their studies, but they’re stuck in visa limbo. The Minister offered to raise this issue with Minister Andrew Mitchell in Westminster. 

Connecting issues

Rob from the Red Cross spoke about the current situation in Morocco. He also raised the food crisis in Africa, which is primarily driven by the climate crisis. The Minister acknowledged the connections across different issues, and the need to consider funding for development, humanitarian crises and climate justice in a joined-up way.  

Global south input

Benjamin Carey asked about the global south advisory panel: whether the panel was really representative and how input was received. Joanna Keating  (international development team lead) explained that the panel was a pilot and this time the representatives were selected, but the plan is for the existing panel to give advice on how the panel should be set up, shaped, and taken forward. The Minister echoed this approach and said she was very much hoping that the panel would help define its future, and she is also open to ideas from others. 

Ben Wilson from SCIAF suggested that Scottish civil society can also play a part in bringing global south voices to the table through our strong partner relationships. 

Improved communications

Ben also spoke about the ‘Contribution to Development’ report, which in the past had been an important document as it enabled both parliamentary scrutiny and support. Lorna from Tearfund echoed this and called for improved communications with the public (both from the government and the sector), to gain trust and support for our work. It is hoped that the report will be reinstated when capacity allows, and the Minister agreed that communications could be improved.  

Clearer structures

Joanna reported that the international development team had been restructured, with staff working to the dedicated programming themes: education, health, humanitarian & conflict, equalities, CSOs/partnership. The staff changes will be communicated once completed and should help improve capacity and communications. 

Our thanks to the Minister and her team for giving time to our members concerns. We hope this will be the first of many similar meetings so look out in our newsletter and on our website for details of future meetings.

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